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12 February 2020

Mataura dross removal update

A deal to fast track the removal of 10,000 tonnes of aluminium dross, stored at the former Mataura paper mill, is off.

Gore District Chief Executive Stephen Parry today announced the deal he had struck with New Zealand Aluminium Smelters CEO Stewart Hamilton has been scuppered by Rio Tinto.

“To say I am devastated is an understatement.

“We had a deal, sealed with a good old-fashioned Southland handshake, but Rio Tinto’s bosses have reneged.”

Mr Parry said the deal would have resulted in the dross being removed from Mataura by the end of June and sent to a building on the Tiwai Point complex for storage.

The building is not part of Inalco’s processing plant at Tiwai.

“It’s my understanding from conversations with Stewart that Rio Tinto’s rationale for refusing to take the dross was that it didn’t want any more liabilities on the Tiwai site before the company’s strategic review is completed at the end of March.”

Mr Parry said he shared the frustrations and anger of Mataura residents who want the dross gone from the town.

“We (the Council) have been working on a deal, in one form or another, to get it removed for the best part of 24 months.”

“Ironically, due to the Stop The Dross high profile campaign, the dross has become a poisoned chalice.”

Gore District Mayor Tracy Hicks was forthright in his condemnation of NZAS and Rio Tinto.

“I’ve had a gutsful of their shilly-shallying.

“We have been working with Rio Tinto for the last three years and have bent over backwards to keep them engaged.

“All they do is thumb their nose at us and the people of Mataura.”

Mr Hicks questioned whether some of the millions the company would be saving in its “sweetheart deal” over power, could be used to expedite the removal of the dross.

Mr Parry said the original deal struck with all Southland councils, landowners and NZAS to move the dross stored throughout Southland was still in place.

“However, at this point I can’t offer Mataura residents any concrete method by which we can accelerate the removal process.”

The dross was dumped “under the cover of darkness” at the paper mill in mid-2014 by Taha Industries. Taha had been contracted by NZAS to deliver a zero waste solution for the aluminium dross - a waste by-product from the production of aluminium.

“Let’s be clear, the dross was dumped in Mataura and other Southland premises under NZAS’ watch. The company’s supervision of the contract with Taha is worthy of a closer look, Mr Parry said.

“It would be ideal if Stewart Hamilton could attend the meeting in Mataura, on Friday, to explain to our residents in more detail why his company can’t take the dross.”

Mr Hicks also condemned NZAS’s performance in managing its contract with Taha.

“Mr Magoo would have done a better job.

“I understand over $20million was paid to Taha to provide a zero waste solution. Instead, we are left with this potentially toxic substance threatening our people and our environment.”

Gore District Council 29 Bowler Avenue Gore P: 03 209 0330 E: info@goredc.govt.nz